Looking into the mirror: how challenge can become a spiritual practice

When we are facing a personal challenge that triggers intense emotions, the tendency is to value judge that experience as negative or threatening to our well-being. We feel vulnerable and insecure, shame arrives and we attempt to numb ourselves to avoid the discomfort. We panic and contract physically and energetically. My continued interest as a therapist, mother and partner is in how to work effectively with people around developing internal resources that can regulate the intensity and potentially allow for the curiosity around leaning into these challenges, or mirrors, and allow us to gather a deeper awareness during challenging times.

Looking into the Mirror

I am using the term mirror because when we start to view challenge as an opportunity to see deeper into ourselves, it allows for growth and self-mastery. The angle that we use these mirrors from is determined by the position that we choose. If we contract in fear then we will see distortions. If we expand in trust then we see the insights. I, therefore, use the term mirror in a dualistic way: One angle is what I call the trickster mirrors, or the self-distortions that arise in our internal view of ourselves driven by insecure or limiting beliefs. When those trickster mirrors come up, it feels like we are in a fun house, though its not so fun anymore. Distortions of ourselves become riddled with fear and shame and we see warped versions of who we are colored by a dysmorphic fantasy. This trickter mirror is related to a contracted sense of self and can cause us to stay in pain.

Another angle is what I call the oracle mirrors. Within this view, we can utilize the mirror as an opprtunity to humbly see what we might be avoiding. These mirrors can show up as messengers: people telling us things that we are blind to or patterns showing themselves that spell out truths that we might be avoiding looking at it. These oracles are showing us reflections of unowned parts of ourselves and tempt us to grow and become more aware, utilized when we choose expansion: trust, growth, humility and grace.

Connecting with a Deeper Truth

What allows for this work to begin to feel like a spiritual practice is when we are able to see ourselves from a broader, deeper perspective: an honorable connection to self, a wholeness, a depth, a deeper and higher intuitive knowing. We utilize the resources to become an ally to ourselves. We become the oracle of truth and safety, not outsourced to other people’s truths. We can then take the funhouse distortions that we see and have leverage around whether it is an absolute truth or a habit of thought based in fear. We can also alternatively assess if the reflection is asking for us to accept what is being reflected and consider fine tuning the way we show up, maybe changing some things for our own benefit without contracting in self-doubt and blame.

The cosmic accordion: are you contracting or expanding?

The internal position that we operate from will determine our outcome. When we come from self-blame and fear we contract in shame and we hide and the world around us responds. When we come from courage, love and trust, we have courage to take risks and receive our lessons, we humbly accept our potential and our growth. I see each look into the internalized trickster mirrors or the externalized oracle mirrors as a choice-point: do you contract or expand?

At times it makes sense to isolate and take shelter, to hibernate and not seek external stimulation. But it will be a different experience if you do so from a resourced and loving position: to take care of yourself with compassion, care, curiosity and growth rather than contracting into blame, shame, and fear around your need for solitude.

Challenge is a constant. There is no escaping the challenges. It’s how we hold ourselves within the challenge that will determine if we shut down or grow. When we start to see the challenges that arise as opportunities to get to know yourself deeper, it allows for more comfort to arise within the places that scare us. This way, challenge can be seen as a spiritual practice, an opportunity to practice your deeper connection to Self and expand into more of who you are.

More about Maya: Voted 2017 Best Therapist in SF Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay”, Maya has been working with individuals and couples for the last 15 years throughout the Bay Area specializing in intimacy for Couples. Those who know Maya, see that she’s a woman of many talents: a compelling sex-positive Psychotherapist, a playful mother of two boys, and a passionate performer and director of a flourishing dance theater performance group in SF. mayalane.net